Bach can teach us about:
Curiosity, when he stuck his little hands into the cabinet of his older brother Johann Christoph to secretly copy his forbidden compilation of keyboard music of contemporary German, Italian, and French composers.
Dealing with personal tragedy, when his first wife Maria Barbara whom he dearly loved suddenly died of unknown causes, Bach was away with his Prince Leopold of Cothen on a trip. Bach found his wife already buried on July 7, 1720. But in 1721 he prepared 6 Brandenburg Concertos - Movement 1 from Concerto No. 2 is flying since 1977 in the Voyager Interstellar Mission with other specimens of the achievements of humanity and natural sounds and images.
Failure, when he applied unsuccessfully for the positions of musical director in 5 main churches in Hamburg but a more wealthier competitor was chosen for the job.
Fear, when organist Louis Marchand fled after hearing Bach's practice before the planned contest between the two masters.
Following the rules, when he advocated that in composition everything which is not forbidden, is allowed.
Generosity, when he played the entire cycle of the Well Tempered Clavier for his students when he was in no mood to teach.
Hard work, when he said that he worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as he did can achieve the same results. He was being serious.
Having a mission, when he walked all the way to Lubeck from Arnstadt on foot the distance of 250 miles to learn from Dieterich Buxtehude.
Having a point of view, when he called the-not-so-diligent bassoonist in his school ensemble "Zippel Fagottist" ("Nanny Goat Bassoonist") for which he got in trouble with the Arnstadt city council. This bassoonist with his friends have assaulted Bach one evening and only his ceremonial dagger and his female companion prevented the escalation of fight).
Ignoring the critics, when he was accused by Johann Adolph Scheibe to be the greatest of the Musikanten (insult to the learned musician) and that his church compositions are artificial and laborious.
Leading by example, when he wrote the Art of Fugue or Well Tempered Clavier as textbooks for polyphonic writing. Or when he harmonized chorales in his cantatas which literally became models and harmony textbooks for future generations.
Not waiting for inspiration, when he wrote one or two cantatas during his first 5 years in Leipzig on Monday and Tuesday (like this one - Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring starts on p. 16). On Wednesday the parts were copied, on Thursday the performers received the parts, on Friday was the rehearsal, and on Sunday - the performance during the liturgy. On Monday everything starts from scratch.
Not waiting to get picked, when he went to improvise in front of Johann Adam Reincken, a legendary master in Hamburg.
Persistence, when he offered this advice to one of his students: "Just practice diligently and you will do very well. You have five fingers on each hand just as healthy as mine."
Rejection, when he won the organist position of the Jacobi church in Sangerhausen but didn't get the job.
Shame, when he insulted his employer, the Duke in Weimar for which he was put in prison for a month.
Vulnerability, when he played his chorale harmonizations during church services in Arnstadt in a new and daring way which he learned from Buxtehude. His congregation didn't like it. It didn't take long for Bach to start looking for a new position.
It's our turn now.
PS Don't try to be another Bach. Because there already was one. But become the best at being yourself.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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